The Meetings Industry and SOPA

Image: Forbes

I wrote this post on Friday with the intent of posting on Monday. Over the weekend, there were some dramatic changes in Washington. Specifically, the White House made the following statement:

While we believe that online piracy by foreign websites is a serious problem that requires a serious legislative response, we will not support legislation that reduces freedom of expression, increases cybersecurity risk, or undermines the dynamic, innovative global Internet.

In addition, many of those that were behind SOPA are now pulling their support in what must be amazing moments of clarity.While this might “kill the bill”, we need to stay on top of this and not let our politicians do stupid things.

That being said, the image that you see above could have this website slammed off the internet, it could make it disappear in an instant. Why? Because I did not create the image and even though I give credit (the image is from this post over at Forbes where the author is calling for large internet sites to join in his call for a massive protest)

We need to focus and keep our eye on the ball because this post is about a real issue that needs to be addressed by the meetings and events industry and so far, our industry associations are silent (surprised??).

Our industry associations are always silent on major issues because God forbid they piss off a sponsor because we all know that they are in it for the money, some (not all) of our associations act like giant cash sucking machines. They do not actually help meeting  and event planners and the real world issues that we face. Oh, sure, they will help you learn how to divide the square feet of a ballroom to get the square meters, but they will never actually take a stand on anything of substance because they are chicken-shit.

The Current Problem

The major item that is facing meeting and event planners (this time) is SOPA and PIPA. Two bills that are currently making the rounds in Washington that could effectively kill the internet or at least how we use the internet, leaving us with only what the Corporations and Government want us to see.

This is the WORST legislation to come before us in YEARS and has the power to effectively change the way we do business and could potentially CRIPPLE the small businesses that are the backbone of the meetings and events industry.Do you hear me associations? Small businesses make up most of the industry, not the huge mega-conglomerates that you call friend (or cash cow)….. but I digress.

What is SOPA

SOPA (and its companion Bill, PIPA) is designed to stop online piracy. This sounds good on the surface, everyone can agree that stealing shit is bad. What SOPA really is though is an internet censorship tool that will be employed by corporations that feel a website has infringed on their rights.

A company thinks you infringed, they submit a request to the Justice Department and then the site is removed (without trial or hearing). The site being attacked has 5 days to appeal and that is all. 5 days…. could you muster a response in 5 days if someone was threatening your business?

Now, pro-SOPA people will say that they are only targeting the bad guys and that may be true… at first, but once the corporations realize they have the power to hack their competitors off at the knees, they will use it. How can they use it? Let me tell you.

The problem is that the Bill is written so broadly with such vague terms that sites that use song clips or even post a review of a product or movie could potentially be forced to remove the content or be shut down entirely.

So, you post a picture on Facebook of a movie poster and Facebook could be shut down…. No shit, the bill is written that poorly. The problem is the not what they want to accomplish, it is HOW they want to accomplish it.

Watch a video that explains this whole mess.

PROTECT IP / SOPA Breaks The Internet from Fight for the Future on Vimeo.

Want to know what others are saying?

Here is a snip from a CNET Article

On November 15, Google, Facebook, Twitter, Zynga, eBay, Mozilla, Yahoo, AOL, and LinkedIn wrote a letter to key members of the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives, saying SOPA poses “a serious risk to our industry’s continued track record of innovation and job creation, as well as to our nation’s cybersecurity.” Yahoo has reportedly quit the U.S. Chamber of Commerce over the organization’s enthusiastic support for SOPA.

Laurence Tribe, a high-profile Harvard law professor and author of a treatise titled American Constitutional Law, has argued that SOPA is unconstitutional because, if enacted, “an entire Web site containing tens of thousands of pages could be targeted if only a single page were accused of infringement.”

Here is a snip from LifeHacker

It puts power in the hands of the entertainment industry to censor sites that allegedly “engage in, enable or facilitate” copyright infringement. This language vague enough to encompass sites you use every day, like Twitter and Facebook, making SOPA a serious problem.

Basically, the bill will be no good at stopping piracy—what it was apparently designed to do—but excellent at censoring any web site capable of providing its users with the means of promoting pirated content or allowing the process. This includes sites like Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Tumblr, and many more. If it’s possible to post pirated content on the site, or information that could further online piracy, a claim can be brought against it. This can be something as minor as you posting a copyrighted image to your Facebook page, or piracy-friendly information in the comments of a post such as this one. The vague, sweeping language in this bill is what makes it so troubling.

How about the Electronic Frontier Foundation

Let’s make one thing clear from the get-go: despite all the talk about this bill being directed only toward “rogue” foreign sites, there is no question that it targets US companies as well.

Howling at the Moon

As you can see, SOPA is a wolf in sheep’s clothing, it is a law that on its surface seems harmless enough but it is designed to allow corporations and the government the ability to shut down websites simply because they want too, with no due process. They may simply not like what a website is saying and get an order to shut it down.

In my opinion, this runs contrary to the American Constitution.  This Bill is ANTI-AMERICAN.

SOPA tells you that it is designed to stop online piracy but is supported by the same morons that gave us DRM systems for our digital music (that worked well) and by other companies that wish to control what we see on the internet. They are looking for a back door to snuff out their competition and are using legislation and lobbying to get this power.

Here are some companies that support SOPA

  • Universal Music
  • Ultimate Fighting Championship
  • Time Warner
  • Tiffany and Company
  • Walt Disney
  • National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences
  • Roseta Stone
  • Revlon
  • The PGA
  • Nintendo
  • NBCUniversal
  • CBS
  • Comcast

Right off the bat you can see that these are not the companies that you want controlling what you have access too. They have only one desire and that is to snuff out (legal) competition and sell you shit. These companies are looking for a power grab. Here is a link to every company that supports SOPA.

Here are the companies that are lined up AGAINST SOPA

  • AOL
  • American Express
  • Boing Boing
  • Creative Commons
  • Daily Kos
  • Disqus
  • eBay
  • Etsy
  • Facebook
  • foursquare
  • Google
  • LinkedIn
  • Mozilla
  • PayPal
  • Tumblr
  • Twitter
  • TechCrunch
  • Yahoo!
  • The Huffington Post
  • Craigslist

Here is the complete list of companies that oppose SOPA.

You will notice that there are some heavy hitters in opposition to SOPA, some are good and some are bad but at least they want to keep the internet as it is; an open forum where we can all share ideas, thoughts and opinions without the fear that some big bad company or the government is going to come in and squash a website because they do not like what we have to say, which they will do by the way in case you are one of those idiots that thinks that companies have your best interests at heart.

What Does SOPA Mean for Meetings and Events

OK, let’s take a really simple example.

  • You have a conference, conference video plays on homepage, in the background of the video there is a song playing (just happened to be playing at the conference venue)…. BAM, goodbye to your whole website.
  • A speaker gives you a video to post on your site and unbeknownst to you, there is copyrighted material in the video…. BAM, there goes your site.
  • One of your competitors TELLS (ahem, lies) to the Justice Department that there is copyrighted material on your website… BAM, there goes your site.

I can think of a million other examples and all are not good. There are also more personal reasons why you should oppose SOPA, but that is for another post.

We Know Piracy Needs to Stop

I understand that we need to stem the tide of piracy because it takes money from the artist, the people that work on these projects and the companies that sell this merchandise.

I do not think that giving Sony Music the power to kill websites is the answer, I do not think that telling BMG that they have the right to willy nilly have websites blocked is going to stem the tide of kids downloading music or dudes in China making illegal copies of the latest blockbuster.

I hate to tell SOPA’s supporters, but that fucking cat is already out of the bag and in fact, it left the bag last decade and is already on the way to Miami. They missed the boat, they missed the cat and now they are trying to catch the cat by killing the dog…. it makes no sense.

Many bad things start out as good things.

We should take the time to craft legislation that is fair to the recording industry, artists and others while at the same time, does not trample the rights of meeting and event professionals that may inadvertently run afoul of some hideous piece of legislation.


I really hope that this does not devolve into some left/right political thing because I find that the morons that slide down that slip and slide tend to be idiots that probably sit at home kicking their dogs for sport. Just thinkin….

Keith Johnston

Keith Johnston

Keith is the Managing Partner of i3 Events but is most widely known as the outspoken publisher of the event industry blog PlannerWire. In addition to co-hosting the Bullet List and Event Tech Pull Up Podcasts, he has been featured in Plan Your Meetings, Associations Now, Convene, Event Solutions, and has appeared on the cover of Midwest Meetings Magazine.

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